I'm pretty dang proud of myself this year. I didn't pick up my first book for fun until 2015 and even then I might have only read four or five books. You can see my full story HERE, but to make a long story short, I got a new job, was stuck in small oil towns about 80% of the year, and was bored out of my mind and in need or somewhere to escape to. I gradually increased my reading to maybe 30 books in 2016, 50 in 2017, but then bam! This year was full of trying new genres, a lot of freaking non-fiction that I never thought I'd pick up, and some back-tracking to pick up some of the classics, and even just binge reading Harry Potter for the first time this year, all things I missed out on growing up.
I have such a diverse audience that I decided to pick a top few in each genre, so those that are only interested in one specific genre can skip to that section, and I've hidden my top three overall reads for the year in their respective categories.
One of my top three books of 2018 is already on display here in this section. A historical fiction with a bit of mystery, it is...
Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens: I didn't realize how much I loved when an author can make the setting of their story come alive until I held a personal connection with this marsh land. This story was brutal yet beautiful and held your heart open to the elements. Where The Crawdads Sing was extremely vulnerable and honest in its character's naivety.
A few others that earned my five star rating were:
Three books stood out to me personally above the rest in this category.
Spiritual Sobriety: Stumbling Back to Faith When Good Religion Goes Bad by Elizabeth Esther: This book hit really close to home. I grew up wanting to be saved daily because of the outpouring of praise and congratulations you received and euphoric feeling it gave. I also was taught to not ask questions (lack of faith) and how dare you care about your own well being (selfish). I thought my salvation story didn't matter because it was not dramatic since I grew up in church and it was more so expected, so my testimony must be useless. I looked up to a pastor as my leader and almost forgot about God in the process, idolizing him as a role model, then when he committed adultery I stopped going to church for a decade. This book hit all my personal struggles and more.
Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis: This book made me respect C.S. Lewis for his unbiased philosophical approach to this subject. I love to grow and see things different ways and this book stretched my reasoning. It made me question things previously taken for granted, evolve to a deeper understanding, and have more confidence in my faith. I originally had rented this from the library, but after the first chapter and twenty sticky notes later, I realized I needed to buy this and mark it up on my own as a great reference book.
Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church by Rachel Held Evans: I loved feeling known and having someone address all the issues I currently have with churches as well as the honesty that the relationship can be bipolar. She constantly was either excited and reinvigorated by religion or had sworn it off due to an event or someones judgement from the church. She shared an honesty that some days she could sit in a pew and believe the words sung and the message presented and the next day be disgusted and confused with it feeling foreign.
Some other great four and five star reviews were:
I had never read a memoir before this year and I went on quite a tangent after finishing my first. I listened to all these on audiobook (look into your local library, most will let you rent and download audiobooks for free) and loved getting to hear the personalities of the authors shine through as they were all self-narrated.
One of my top three books of 2018 is in this category and it is...
Educated by Tara Westover: This story held crippling details and heartbreaking, cringe-worthy developments, but the outcome was powerful. Tara is a highly educated, independent, strong woman who I'm grateful decided to share her story. There is no filter and this story is as beautiful as it is devastating. Her story will stay with me for a long time.
I've definitely had times where I don't know what I don't know and it makes things difficult, but to have the courage and resilience to go into the completely unknown and accomplish all she has is inspiring.
Some of my other favorite five star reviews:
In the past this has been a much larger category, but this year I ended up being swept away with the autobiography and inspirational genres. These three romances though all should be read for very different reasons and two hold trigger warnings for sensitive material.
All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover: This book is marriage counseling. A trigger warning for couples suffering through infertility, that is the main topic throughout this book. This was not as action packed and full of twists and grit as some of her other books, but it was beautifully elegant in its simplicity.
"No marriage is perfect. There were times when she gave up on us. There were even more times when I gave up on us. The secret to our longevity is that we never gave up at the same time."
Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal: I blushed and giggled and just sat in awe. This was so much more erotic than I could have imagined as well as capturing a lot of other aspects I wasn’t expecting. Love, mystery, murder, grief, connections, modern vs traditional, acceptance, forgiveness. It was juicy and not just because of those oh so steamy scenes sprinkled in. An entertaining piece of art.
If There's No Tomorrow by Jennifer L. Armentrout: I felt like the main focus of this story was guilt and grief instead of a cheesy love story. One quote I loved was, "It lessened some of the suffocating weight I carried by finally opening up to a counselor." This trigger warning is survivor's guilt. The book advocated to not fold into yourself after a tragedy happens and how finally saying it out loud helps to heal.
This was my first year to try fantasy. I usually steer clear of this genre because I can't keep up with how to pronounce the names, what superpowers each character has, and end up having to take notes to keep up with things, but these two surpassed my expectations.
Circe by Madeline Miller: I am clueless to mythology, but was still mesmerized by Circe's life. I love that mythology holds almost no bounds. The results and journey can be endless on any adventure. If she doesn't like a man, instead of just a normal break up, why not curse him or turn him into a beast. So much more fun to read than your typical romance! Deceit, treachery, love, adventure, mystery, vengeance. This story holds a mixture of everything you can imagine with a witch on top, what could go wrong?
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling: The first few books in this series made me feel like I might have waited too late in life to pick them up, but this one could easily impress an adult. As the series progresses I feel like it slowly matures as maybe the audience did when they were originally released. I love this book and will be rereading it for all the mass details involved. Love, angst, fear, defeat, longing, joy, and so on. The spectrum of emotion encompassed in this book was epic and exhilarating!
And then some more favorable mentions:
This category holds the last of my top three books of 2018...
I'll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara: This might be one of the best and most depressing books I've read this year. It's hard to admit to a book so brutally true and disgusting to be entertaining, but this was an emotionally heart wrenching roller coaster that had me on the edge of my seat. I have heard of the Golden State Killer, but I had no idea the details of all he had done. I didn't know the acts or the time frame and this was extremely educational without being too bogged down with technical jargon.
These two came in a close second holding very similar, both eye-opening and heart-wrenching stories.
These were just a few highlights with some of my favorite reads in 2018. I have a goal of 100 books in 2019, so stay tuned for many more reviews to come. You can see some of my other books read from 2018 in the video below and find those reviews on: